December 20, 2010

The Tragedy of Sholom Rubashkin

In just two days, Sholom Rubashkin, the former CEO of the failed Agriprocessor will be sentenced for bank fraud, not for the large number of illegal immigrants he allegedly employed, not for employing minors, not for allegedly denying his workers the right to unionize and not even for animal cruelty, the charge that PETA leveled against the company that many blame for the trigger that caused Rubashkin’s downfall. As one who has in the past represented Rubashkin (in PR and marketing) and who has known the Rubashkins for many years as a result of my involvement in the kosher food industry, the treatment of Mr. Rubashkin is hard to fathom. Why is it that he was denied bail and is facing a prospect of a near-life sentence in much the same way as someone convicted of first-degree murder?

While I am not suggesting that Mr. Rubashkin should not be punished for his crime, he certainly does not deserve this unusually and totally disproportionate harsh treatment and punishment. It is hard to believe that the America I love and cherish would do this to a man with a large family and a special needs child and to someone who is the epitome of benevolence which may best be summarized with the following story: Arriving home one evening, I found a man in my driveway asking for a donation to help pay for open heart surgery for his child. As an Israeli citizen without insurance, he needed to raise the money for the costly surgery. His wife was home caring for his 6 other children and he had come to the US to work as a shochet at Agri. When I asked him if he was still working for Agri, he answered: “When I told Sholom Rubashkin of my plight, he immediately ordered me to leave the plant and to devote myself to caring for my son. He said that he would pay me until I returned after my son was well and back with his family in Israel.” Is this the behavior of a criminal who should be put away for life? I purposely chose not to recount some of the e-mails I still receive from Orthodox Jews in small Jewish communities who tell me that they no longer get the deliveries of kosher meat they used to receive from the Rubashkins at an enormous loss to the company. I hope and pray that the criminal justice system in America will not let me, his supporters and his family down on April 28th!